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Action 52

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Action 52
NES cover art
Developer(s)Active Enterprises (NES)
FarSight Technologies (Genesis)
Publisher(s)Active Enterprises
Director(s)Vince Perri
Jay Obernolte (Genesis)
Producer(s)Vince Perri
Raul Gomila
Jay Obernolte (Genesis)
Designer(s)Mario González (NES)
Programmer(s)Albert Hernández
Cronos Engineering, Inc.
Artist(s)Javier Pérez
Writer(s)Mario González (NES)
Mario González
Javier Pérez
Ed Bogas (uncredited)
Nu Romantic Productions (Mark Steven Miller and Jason Scher)
Sega Genesis
NA 1991
Sega Genesis
NA 1993

Action 52 is an unlicensed multicart video game compilation developed by Active Enterprises for the Nintendo Entertainment System and by FarSight Technologies for the Sega Genesis. The NES version was released in 1991, followed by the Genesis version in 1993. The multicart consists of 52 games in a variety of genres, mostly scrolling shooters and platformers.[1] The "featured" game is The Cheetahmen, which was part of Active's failed attempt to create a franchise similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Active Enterprises was legally incorporated in The Bahamas, but the offices and development were located in Miami, Florida while the company's product warehousing was located in Orlando, Florida.[2]

The NES version of Action 52 sold poorly and became infamous among gamers for the poor quality and functionality of its games; it is often considered to be one of the worst games of all time. The Genesis version is widely considered superior, though still of subpar quality. Many video game collectors value Action 52 for its notoriety and rarity. It initially retailed for the comparatively high price of US$199 (equivalent to $445 in 2023).[3]



Gameplay of Haunted Halls of Wentworth from the NES version (1991) of Action 52

The NES version of Action 52 includes games that cover a variety of genres, the most common types being vertical shooters set in outer space, and platformers.[1] The games have major programming flaws. Some of them freeze or crash; other issues include incomplete or endless levels, confusing design, and unresponsive controls.

Each game is given a brief description in the manual for Action 52. Some of the descriptions cover games from the early development of Action 52 that were very different from the games of corresponding titles; for example, Jigsaw is described as a game involving a jigsaw puzzle, but the game titled as such on the final product is a platformer involving a construction worker avoiding construction tools.[4]

The Cheetahmen is the featured game of Action 52, and was intended to launch a multimedia franchise and an accompanying line of merchandise. A Cheetahmen animated television series, a comic book series and T-shirts were planned. An advertisement for action figures, which included concept art, appeared in a promotional comic book included in the Action 52 package.[5][6] However, these plans were eventually cancelled due to the extremely negative reception Action 52 received.[citation needed]

Active Enterprises advertised a contest involving Ooze, one of the games of Action 52. Players who could complete Level 6 of the game could enter a drawing for $104,000 ($52,000 cash, and a scholarship with the same value). Ooze was reported to consistently crash on Level 2; therefore, it was impossible to qualify for the contest[7] without using an emulator; after the contest had been cancelled, a second version of Action 52 was released which fixed this crashing problem, among some others.

The opening sequence of the NES version uses a Yeah! Woo! drum break sampled from Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's song "It Takes Two."[8]

Sega Genesis[edit]

Gameplay of Spidey from the Genesis version (1993) of Action 52

Few of the games from the NES version of Action 52 appear in the Sega Genesis version; although many of the titles have been retained, the games themselves have been rebuilt from scratch for the most part.[9] For example, Haunted Hills appears in both versions, but the player character's gender is different (female in the NES version and male in the Genesis version), as is the setting, which is inside a haunted house in the NES version, and outside of one in the Genesis version. In the Genesis version of The Cheetahmen, the titular characters rescue cheetah cubs from Dr. Morbis and his minions.

Many - though not all - of the numerous technical issues with the NES version have been fixed in the Genesis version, which also takes advantage of the Genesis's superior hardware.[9] Each game is color-coded on the main menu screen; "Beginner" games are green, "Intermediate" games are purple, "Expert" games are yellow, "Challenge" games are white, and multiplayer games are blue.[9] The 52nd game, also titled Challenge, consists of a random sequence of the highest levels of the other single-player games.[9] Also included in the Genesis version are the Randomizer, which selects a game at random, and a music demo mode.


The creator of Action 52 was Vince Perri, a businessman from Miami, Florida, and the owner and founder of Active Enterprises. According to Perri, "I happened to see my son playing an illegal product made in Taiwan that had 40 games on it. The whole neighborhood went crazy over it ... I figured I'd do it legally. It's obvious when you see something like that, you know there's something there".[10] Perri met Mario González at a recording studio in Miami, Florida where González was working as a sound engineer. He overheard Perri talking to the owner of the studio about him wanting to create a cartridge similar to the bootleg one his son had that contained 52 original games. González informed Perri that he and his friends, Javier Pérez and Albert Hernández, were into making games; the trio created a Tetris clone called Megatris as proof of their abilities. Perri was impressed with the game and, alongside Raúl Gomila, hired them as well as an unknown fourth developer to create the game, with Hernández acting as the main programmer, González composing the music, and González, Pérez, and the fourth developer working on the graphics.[11]

In 1993, Perri showcased Action 52 at the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show.[12] He claimed to have raised $5 million for the multicart from private backers in Europe and Saudi Arabia. The developers, who used an Atari ST, were given three months to complete Action 52, leaving little time for playtesting and fixing bugs. Technical work was contracted out to Cronos Engineering, Inc., a Boca Raton company who had previously done work for IBM.[10] González, one of the programmers, says that Action 52's developers were flown to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they were trained for a week on using an NES development kit by a video game company, the name of which he does not remember. However, he does recall that the company was developing an NES adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back; this would identify the company as Sculptured Software. Corroborating this is Action 52's use of Sculptured Software's NES music engine.[11][13] Several pieces of music in the NES version of Action 52 were plagiarized from sample music composed by Ed Bogas for The Music Studio, published by Activision for the Atari ST.[14] The games with plagiarized music include Fuzz Power, Silver Sword, French Baker, Streemerz, Time Warp Tickers and Ninja Assault. González also confirms that, in addition to many unused tiles, Action 52 has 8 extra game templates, because the distributor configured the cartridges to contain 60 games by default.

According to González, the gaming press's characterization of Action 52 as a "scam" is incorrect. He says that Perri, inspired by his neighborhood's reaction to the Taiwanese compilation, fully intended, at least in the beginning, to create and market a legitimate multicart. However, Perri knew little about the video game business when he launched his venture, and as a result made serious errors, such as entrusting the project to programmers who had too little experience, and giving them an insufficient length of time to develop Action 52. Perri's expectation that the multicart would launch a multimedia Cheetahmen franchise was similarly not well-founded, given the game's low quality.

The Sega Genesis version of Action 52 was developed by FarSight Technologies, under the direction of Jay Obernolte, using a Macintosh LC.[15] FarSight's experienced programmers, along with the returning Pérez and Hernández (González opted not to participate, in order to spend more time with his girlfriend, whom he would eventually marry), were allowed to spend a year developing this version. FarSight insisted that Active Enterprises playtest it before its release; thus, the resulting multicart had far fewer glitches than the NES version released two years before. Mark Steven Miller and Jason Scher of Nu Romantic Productions composed the music for the Genesis version, in 48 hours. A version of the game for the SNES was planned for release in October 1993 but was canceled.[10] Active Enterprises also planned to have FarSight develop another multicart titled Sports 5, but Active folded without releasing either game soon after, and no copies of them are known to exist.


Critical reaction to Action 52 has been consistently negative. AllGame editor Skyler Miller described the game as an "unlicensed but legal multicart" containing "NES games of extremely poor quality."[16]

The entirety of Action 52 has also been famously reviewed by internet personality and YouTube content creator James Rolfe (as his persona, the Angry Video Game Nerd), which originally aired on YouTube on July 21, 2011. Despite his comedic exaggerations, the review pointed out severe cases of repeating themes, crashing or non-functional games, critical bugs, and misleading titles.[17]

Destructoid called gave a highly critical review, noting that "there’s nothing worth playing in the lot."[18]

A Rock, Paper, Shotgun retrospective review in 2019 delivered the similar criticism, stating that "all the games in the collection were creatively bankrupt rush jobs" and that the best games in the collection could be described as "minigames which functioned."[19]

Atlas Obscura gave similar criticism and noted that there was a remake project in 2010 to remake all of the games in the cartridge due to their low quality and that 23 were completed, but no updates have come from the project since then.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Action 52 for NES - MobyGames". MobyGames. Archived from the original on 2023-10-06. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  2. ^ "What is the Single RAREST Item in Your Collection? - Page 57 - Retrogaming Roundtable". Archived from the original on 2023-03-19. Retrieved 2024-06-05.
  3. ^ "Top Ten Shameful Games". Archive.gamespy.com. 2002-12-31. Archived from the original on 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  4. ^ "Action 52 - Nintendo NES - Manual -" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2023-10-14. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  5. ^ "Active Enterprises exposed". atarihq.com. Archived from the original on 2010-02-23. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  6. ^ "Action 52 - th' Stuff". Arkfullofsorrow.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2009-07-22.[unreliable source?]
  7. ^ Chiucchi, Vincent (2008-01-17). "411mania.com: Games - The Hall of Shame 01.17.08: Action 52". 411mania.com. Archived from the original on 2010-05-06. Retrieved 2009-11-14.[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ Cinemassacre (2011-07-21), Action 52 - Angry Video Game Nerd - Episode 90, retrieved 2016-02-21
  9. ^ a b c d Jave. "Action 52 - NES (1991) / Action 52 - Genesis (1993) / Cheetahmen 2 - NES (unreleased)". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  10. ^ a b c "Video Creator Plays 52 Games to Win". The Miami Herald.
  11. ^ a b "Mario Gonzalez (Action 52) - Interview". Arcade Attack. 2017-09-16. Archived from the original on 2021-05-03. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  12. ^ "Cartridge has 52 video games". Austin American-Statesman. 1993-01-30. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  13. ^ "Post on NESDev forums by Kevin Horton". 2011-04-05. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-04-09.[unreliable source?]
  14. ^ "YouTube Video demonstrating matching songs from "The Music Studio" and "Action 52"". YouTube. 2009-02-12.[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ Harris, Andrew; Allwein, Dave (2003). "Jay Obernolte Interview". Cheetahmen Corner. Archived from the original on 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
  16. ^ a b Miller, Skyler. "Action 52 - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on December 11, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  17. ^ Cinemassacre (2011-07-21), Action 52 (NES) - Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN), archived from the original on 2024-03-29, retrieved 2024-03-29
  18. ^ Handley, Zoey (2022-12-26). "The 8 most expensive video games you don't really want to play". Destructoid. Archived from the original on 2024-05-01. Retrieved 2024-04-14.
  19. ^ Crowley, Nate (2019-12-04). "Have You Played... Action 52?". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on 2024-05-21. Retrieved 2024-04-14.
  20. ^ Smith, Ernie (2016-12-13). "The Video Game That Promised to Contain 52 Video Games And Failed Miserably". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on 2022-10-21. Retrieved 2024-04-14.

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